For variety collectors, the half eagles struck at the Dahlonega mint are fertile ground. There are a number of very interesting varieties, but currently just a handful of collectors appreciate them. With the upcoming release of the third edition of my Dahlonega book, I feel that this situation may change. In the first two editions of this book, the variety section(s) were not illustrated and, to be honest, had a number of errors and omissions. Thanks to the assistance of Brian Kollar, a cataloger at Heritage Auctions, this has changed. The variety information in the new Dahlonega book is truly "state-of-the art" and I think it will jump-start this area of the market.
Brian spent a lot of time and effort helping me with the varieties. One thing that I have learned from his groundbreaking work--and something I'd like to share with collectors of Dahlonega half eagles--involves the numerous mintmark sizes found on these coins. I think it will be helpful to illustrate each of the three mintmark sizes used and to discuss which years these are found on. I'm also going to discuss the relative scarcity and importance of these varieties.
There are three mintmark sizes seen on Dahlonega half eagles. These are as follows:
Small D: This mintmark is found on 1840-D, 1841-D, 1842-D Small Date, 1842-D Large Date, and 1843-D half eagles. In the new book, the reverses that employ the Small mintmark are lettered as follows: C,D, E and F. It is illustrated below:
Medium D: This mintmark is found on 1843-D, 1844-D, 1854-D, 1855-D, 1859-D, 1860-D, and 1861-D. In the new book, the reverses that employ the Medium mintmark are lettered as follows: G, CC and JJ. It is illustrated below:
Large D:. This mintmark is the most common size and it is found on the 1838-D, 1839-D, 1840-D, 1841-D, 1845-D, 1846-D (both the normal mintmark and the D/D), 1847-D, 1848-D (both the normal mintmark and the D/D), 1849-D, 1850-D, 1851-D, 1852-D, 1853-D, 1854-D, 1855-D, 1856-D, 1857-D, 1858-D, 1859-D, and 1860-D. In the new book, the reverses that use the Large mintmark are lettered as follows: A-B, H-Z, AA, BB and DD-II.
There are six different years in which Dahlonega half eagles are known with more than one mintmark size. Let's take a look at each of these years and discuss the different varieties.
1840-D: There are a total of two different varieties known for this year.
The first is the Large D (Winter Variety 3-B) which is recognized by PCGS as the Tall D. For the sake of consistency I refer to it here as a Large D, but it is sized and configured differently than what is seen in later years. My guess is that this punch was created by Gobrecht and shows his style; the later Large D punch was by Gobrecht and was executed in his distinctive style. The 1840-D Large (or Tall) D half eagle is the more common of the two varieties seen for this year.
The second is the Small D (Winter Variety 4-C) which is recognized by PCGS as the Small D. It is usually seen with a die crack from the rim through the right diagonal of the V in FIVE through the right side of the mintmark and then up onto the shield. This variety is very scarce.
1841-D: There are three die varieties for this year which use two different mintmark sizes.
Winter 5-B uses the Large (or Tall) mintmark first seen on the 1840-D. This is a rare variety and one that is likely to sell for a premium. It is believed that only 4,105 examples were produced early in the year.
Winter 5-D and Winter 6-D use the Small mintmark but it is not the same one as seen on the 1840-D half eagle. Variety 5-D is common; Variety 6-D (which shows repunching on all four digits of the date) appears to be rare.
1843-D: There are two die varieties known for this year.
The first has a Small mintmark as seen on the 1842-D Small Date. Designated as Winter Variety 10-F, it is quite rare and it should sell for a good premium over the other variety of the year.
The second, Winter 11-G, has a Medium mintmark and it is also seen on the 1844-D. Interestingly, it can be best determined by its obverse as it shows a line of three tiny die lumps between the first and second stars which is not present on Variety 10-F. This variety is quite common.
PCGS recognizes two mintmark sizes for the 1853-D half eagle, but this is not correct. All 1853-D half eagles have a Large mintmark. PCGS lists six coins in the population report as having a Medium mintmark.
The next year in which two different mintmark sizes are known for Dahlonega half eagles is 1854.
1854-D: There are a total of four die varieties known.
The two most common varieties of the year, Winter 36-AA and Winter 37-BB, have a Large mintmark.
The rarest of the four varieties is Winter 37-CC, which has a Medium mintmark. This variety should sell for a premium over the Small mintmark but it is less likely to than other years, given how common the 1854-D is as a date.
The most unusual variety of the year, Winter 37-DD, actually has "no" mintmark (!) It was, of course, struck at the Dahlonega mint but the mintmark was so faintly entered into the reverse die that it is sometimes totally impossible to see. Examples do exist, however, with traces of the top of the D.
1855-D: There are two die varieties known for this year.
The more common of the two, Winter 38-CC, has a Medium mintmark. It is appears that this is the same mintmark first used in 1854 to strike Winter 37-CC.
The rarer of the two, Winter 38-EE, has a Large mintmark. It appears to be very scarce and possibly even quite rare.
1859-D: There are two die varieties known for this year.
The first, Winter 43-CC, has a Medium mintmark and it is common. It is the same reverse that was used to strike Winter 37-CC (1854-D) and Winter 38-CC (1855-D).
The second variety, Winter 44-HH, uses a Large mintmark and it is very rare. It uses the same reverse first employed to strike Winter 42-HH (1858-D).
1860-D: There are three varieties known for this year.
The first, Winter 45-HH, has a Large mintmark. It uses the same reverse as on Winter 42-HH (1858-D) and Winter 44-D (1859-D). The second, Winter 45-II, also has a Large mintmark but it is placed closer to the branch than on Winter 45-HH. The former is very rare and the latter is rare.
The third and final variety of the year is Winter 45-JJ. It has a Medium mintmark and is also found on the 1861-D half eagle. It is common.
One can't discuss the mintmark size varieties of Dahlonega half eagles and not discuss the spectacular 1846-D over D and 1848-D over D varieties.
There are actually two different varieties of 1846-D/D half eagle, Winter 17-J and Winter 18-J. The first has a low date and it was also used on the 1846-D Normal Mintmark, Winter 17-I. On the reverse, the mintmark was first punched too high and too far to the right. The second mintmark is lower and further to the left. The second variety of 1846-D/D, Winter 18-J, has a slightly different date punch with the numerals placed a bit higher in the field. The 1846-D/D is common but it is popular due to the fact that it is clearly visible to the naked eye.
A similar but less known variety exists for the 1848-D. The 1848-D/D half eagle, Winter 22-O, shows the original mintmark punched too low and the second punched to the left and then effaced. This variety is much more subtle than the 1846-D/D and unless it is an early die state with both of the mintmark punches visible to the naked eye, it doesn't command a premium.
The mintmark varieties that I have listed here are the ones that I believe to be important and to be the most potentially collectible if and when Dahlonega half eagles become collected in this fashion. There are, of course, dozens of less obvious varieties and this includes some that are very rare.